The Fate of The Universe

by Catherine Macallister

If you ever find yourself out on Surfside Beach on a clear night, look up and gaze at the star-filled sky. Above you in band that reaches across the night sky, you’ll see the Milky Way. Take a moment to be thankful to be in a place where you can see a clear night sky.

The Summer Science Lecture series is back for its fourth year at the Maria Mitchell Association and an array of astronomers, scientists, and experts will offer lectures throughout the summer months. Lydia Gullicksen, the Executive Administrator and Development Associate for MMA reflects on the choice of speakers this summer saying “We try to pick speakers whose area of expertise might be of interest to the Nantucket community,” noting that this summer there is a focus on climate change. As a premiere scientific education center on island, the Maria Mitchell Association uses this summer series to “bring scientific topics to the community to educate first and foremost but also create a spark of science” says Gulliksen.

Speaking this Wednesday, June 26, is Dr. Laura Prichard, an Affiliated Astronomer with MMA. She will present research on the beginnings of the Universe, galaxies and what will happen when The Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies collide in 4.5 billion years. Coming from the UK, Dr. Prichard was less familiar with Maria Mitchell initially but is “fascinated to hear the history” of the Maria Mitchell Association and Maria Mitchell herself. “As a woman in astronomy, I am so grateful to the women whose passion and hard work made it possible for me to pursue a career in research. Maria Mitchell was pivotal in bringing women into astronomy in the US.”

Dr. Laura Prichard | Nantucket, MA

Dr. Prichard has studied the stars, the universe, and the physics behind it all, earning her doctorate in astrophysics from the University of Oxford. Her research has brought her to places like the Keck Observatory in Hawaii and the European Southern Observatory, otherwise known as “The Very Large Telescope” in Chile. Currently she is working as a post-doctoral astronomer and researcher at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland. Dr Prichard shares her fascination with science and astronomy saying “I have traveled to some incredible places to use telescopes, go to conferences, and work with collaborators and have met many interesting and inspirational people along the way from around the world.” For those of us who don’t know the science lingo and theories, Dr.Prichard will break it down in an informative and thought-provoking lecture. She hopes to share how “both incredible even our small corner of the Universe is, and sheer scales of space” adding, “hopefully without inducing too much of an existential crisis.”

Join Dr. Laura Prichard on Wednesday June 26 at 33 Washington Street from 7 to 8pm. This event is free to MMA members and $10 for non-members. If you can’t make it this week, be sure to check out the other Science Lecture Series presenters that will be sharing everything from the stars to the sea over the course of the summer.

The Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) is a private non-profit organization that was founded in 1902 in honor of Maria Mitchell, a well-known astronomer and educator who made great strides in the science community. In an effort to preserve the importance of science and education for all ages, the Maria Mitchell Association invites you to purchase a ticket to their fundraiser, The Red Ticket Soiree. Every summer, MMA hosts the Red-Tie Soiree to benefit the research and programs that are provided to the public all year round. This soiree under the stars will be held on Sunday, July 14 from 7-10pm at the Sankaty Head Golf Club. Tickets and more information about MMA can be found at mariamitchell.org